I can hardly breathe. My throat is tight, every breath of air struggles to find reprieve. It’s hot (around 90°F) but worse, its humid. And dirty. I glance up in search of sky. Between towering buildings that look like they’ve been abandoned for decades, there is nothing but thick haze. No clouds, no sun, no blue sky – just pollution. It smells of burning urban wood, the kind that still has the paint and nails in it. Exhaust from all the motorbikes and tuk-tuks clouds the sidewalks. Welcome to Bangkok.
I must get the hell out of here, I thought. And so it was. A 19 hour train ride and windy road north exposes a whole different breathing experience. I’ve arrived in Pai, a small town in the middle of the lush mountains, known for its relaxed atmosphere, entertaining night life and natural wonders of waterfalls and hot springs. Its a fairly popular destination for young adults from Bangkok looking to get away for a few days, hear some live music and drink the local whiskey.
To them, this beautiful backpackers sanctity is “third world.” At least that’s what Silpkull told me, a tattoo artist attending a screamo/rock show with his friends. He says in Bangkok , people are obsessed with consumerism like handbags, shoes, and expensive clothing. It a posh lifestyle in the capital, where more than half of te country resides. Out here where the farmers and tribal people live is “too traditional.”
“For us, Pai is just such a slow way of living. Its old fashioned,” the singer or screamer of the band added. For these city kids, the scenery is sort of boring and often overlooked. Here I’ve been swimming in waterfalls, playing with elephants and driving up to viewpoints – essentially having the time of my life! I suppose when you live anywhere for a long time you stop noticing what a beautiful place you’re in.
One thing about Pai is not up for discussion. This town has a way of making people feel like they’re at home. From the locals that mingle on the dance floor amongst tourists, to the walking street that closes traffic every night to allow walkers to shop and eat off the street, this town is almost too good to be true. I planned on staying two days,I’ve been here two weeks. The sense of community is captivating, the scenery spectacular and the people (always the people) make it so you never want to leave.